The 2016 college lacrosse season is upon us, and in preparation Syracuse's first game I will be previewing each ACC team. Now let's visit Charlottesville to take a look a the Cavaliers.
2015 Season: 10-5
All-Time Record vs. SU: 14-16
2015 vs. SU: L 9-15
First Meeting vs. SU: 4/14/1938 L 4-13
Streak vs. SU: L1
2016 Games to Watch:
- 2/13 vs. Loyola Greyhounds: With a tough opener versus the Greyhounds, this will be an interesting test for the Cavs.
- 3/4 vs. Syracuse Orange: The winner will have the early edge for that 3rd ACC Tournament spot. It's a crucial game for both teams.
- 3/27 vs. Johns Hopkins Blue Jays: A big out of conference game in this one, I doubt UVA will be able to pull it off but it would be a huge resume booster if the Cavs end up missing the ACC Tournament.
- 4/2 at Richmond Spiders: Don't look past this game. Richmond is an interesting team and I think this could be an exciting year for the program. While this isn't the toughest matchup, the Spiders could present problems for Virginia.
- 4/10 at North Carolina Tar Heels: Just like with the matchup against Syracuse, both of these teams will be fighting to get into the ACCT.
- 4/23 at Georgetown Hoyas: I could see UVA losing here. After two games against UNC and Duke, it could be somewhat of a trap game, and Georgetown is looking good coming into the season.
The last time UVA won an ACC game was March 1, 2014 when the Cavs beat Syracuse 17-12. For such a storied program, Virginia is in a rut. However, this could be the year that the Hoos bounce back. Even though I have UVA listed as the last team in my ACC rankings, I expect the Cavs to make the NCAA Tournament and have an outside shot at making the NCAA Final Four.
The Virginia attack loses Owen Van Arsdale (25 G, 15 A) to graduation but will return James Pannell (11, 4) and Ryan Lukacovic (22, 27). Pannell, the brother of former Cornell star and Tewaaraton Award winner Rob Pannell, is slated to return after a season ending ACL tear in the sixth game of last year. In 2014, Pannell had 46 points and I think we can expect similar production from him this year. If Pannell struggles or goes down again, I would expect Joe French (4, 0) to see some time. Mike D'Amario (3, 0) should end up being the third starter in the group.
The midfield is led by preseason second-team All-Americans Greg Coholan (39, 14) and Zed Williams (20, 17). Williams came to Charlottesville with a lot of hype. He shattered the national record for points in high school, but certainly underwhelmed in his freshman year. As a starter last year he put up 37 points. Regarding Williams, Coach Starsia said:
"I'd like to think he's on the cusp of being great. Again, some of it's wishful thinking, but you have reason to be optimistic that these things are going to happen, that he's now ready to take on that role alongside Coholan."
Williams has a talent for shooting while screened, and has a very nice low-to-low shot. I would not be surprised to see Zed demolish his statistics from 2015. Meanwhile, Coholan really stepped up last season with 53 points and a team leading 39 goals. The senior moved to attack after the team lost James Pannell to injury, but will be back at midfield this year and could be featured on two midfield lines. The Cavs will need another midfielder to elevate to that first midfield line. AJ Fish (4, 4) or Ryan Conrad are the obvious players to fill that void. AJ Fish is a former attackman who switched to midfield in 2015. At 6'3" the junior is a big presence and ran mostly on the second midfield line last season totaling eight points. Freshman Ryan Conrad joins UVA as the #1 incoming recruit in the nation. Starsia has said that he expects Conrad to have an immediate impact, and he will definitely be on the first or second line.
"He's [Fish] tough to cover and can play that invert," said Coach Starsia, "whereas Conrad is more of a traditional middie, a middle-of-the-field kid who picks it up and [split-dodges] to both hands."
At the faceoff circle, redshirt sophomore Jason Murphy (.505 F/O%, 30 GBs) and junior Jeff Kratky (.420, 24) will be the two main faceoff players this year. Murphy enrolled at Ohio State for his freshman year, but did not play. Last year, Kratky had a .420 winning percentage while Murphy compiled a .505 winning percentage. Faceoffs were definitely a sore spot for the Cavs in 2015, and if the duo struggle, there will be freshman Dave Smith waiting in the wings. Smith was a two-time All American at Shawnee High School in Medford, NJ, and broke his school's all-time career groundball record with 784 scoops.
The Virginia defense allowed an average of 11 goals per game last year, ranking them 49th in the country. The defense was tied for the 42nd in man-down defense in the country. I thought the defense was small and inexperienced, often hanging its goaltender out to dry. It's best player, Davi Sacco (27 GBs, 23 CTs), a former walk-on, has been lost to graduation. However, Tanner Scales will return from a lower body injury that held him out of the entire 2015 season. Scales was named an Inside Lacrosse preseason first-team All-American prior to last year. The senior will lead the defense, and should be saddled by sophomores Logan Greco (14, 3) and Scott Hooper (9, 7). All three have starting experience and with the added experience, the close defense should fair better but I'm not sure the unit will take a big step forward. We could also see Michael Howard (50, 17) at close defense, but as one of the best long-stick midfielders in the country, he is best used at midfield if UVA can spare him. Howard picked up 50 groundballs last year, and caused 17 turnovers.
With a potentially average defense once again, netminder Matt Barrett (11.23 GAA, .538 Sv%) will have to be as good as he was in 2015. Last season, Barrett was 8th in the nation in saves per game. He saw a ton of shots, which significantly affected his save percentage and goals against average. While he had a great season, Barrett had a horrific first round game against Johns Hopkins when he allowed 16 goals and made zero saves. That being said, Barrett is a preseason second team All-American, and I'm not sure I would select a different player in division I to be between the pipes on my team. I think Barrett has the potential to be the best goalie in the country.